Write up of our trip in 2011.
- We landed in Maui and rented a convertible to do the ‘Road to Hana’! It’s a 2 ½ hour drive and best not to be done after sunset! A convertible is recommended so you can put the top-down and enjoy the views the best but some also like a 4×4 so if there’s any debris (usually after rainstorms) on the road, you’ll be fine. We were ok with the convertible and actually loved it. The highway is curvy, winding, and at times a one-lane road highway (CRAZY driving) with lots of pit-stops to be taken for waterfalls, fruit stands, viewpoints, etc. Normally people will start the drive in the morning from Lahaina/airport area and spend ½ day driving slowly all the way just past Hana to Oleo Gulch (the 7 sacred pools) and then drive back slowly, stopping whenever anything seems interesting! What we did is drive straight to Hana without stopping on the first day and spent the night in Hana (there’s only one real hotel but lots of bed and breakfasts). We stayed at the Hotel Hana-Maui, which I think has been re-named the Travasaa Hana. It’s pricey but awesome. Very quiet, almost secluded feeling, and relaxing. Exactly what we were looking for and honestly we wished we had an extra day to spend just at the hotel doing nothing (they have an infinity pool, yoga classes, lots of property to walk around, hammocks/lounge chairs in your personal patio, etc.)! The hotel is associated with Hamoa Beach which is a short drive away or I think they have a shuttle too. The beach is beautiful!! MUST GO if you’re in the area. Again, a secluded feeling even though it’s a public beach. We ate dinner at the hotel b/c the town shuts down early and there aren’t really any other options.
- We ate breakfast at the hotel and spent the morning at Hamoa Beach. Then we drove to Oleo Gulch (the 7 sacred pools) and went swimming in one of the lower pools. Wear good shoes b/c it’s a rocky climb/walk to the pools. It’s pretty cool to see and apparently if you can spend more time you can hike to one of the higher pools and there are some pretty cool waterfalls. From Oleo Gulch we drove back the opposite way on the road to Hana into Lahaina city, stopping at some fruit stands, a view point, and a waterfall. Don’t have any specific information b/c we did everything as we saw it, but I highly recommend getting different maps and/or guidebooks suggesting pit-stops along the way – don’t just use one book/map b/c sometimes the mile markers are listed differently or one book misses something another has, etc. Also, apparently they even have CDs that you can listen to in the car as you’re driving that will describe things to you as you go. Make sure you have your camera, good water shoes (in case you want to hike to any waterfalls), snacks/water, bathing suits/towels, and bug repellant!
- That evening we checked into the Plantation Inn in Lahaina. It’s a cute little hotel ($150/night) but there were ants! Apparently this is common for Hawaii but we didn’t find this problem anywhere else. Don’t think I would stay here again but it was just one night and we barely spent time at the hotel. The breakfast at the restaurant was really good.
- That evening we had dinner at the Old Lahaina Luau. It’s ranked as one of the best and most authentic luaus…not sure how true it is, but the show was awesome and the food was good. It was a pain to book b/c the luau gets booked up really fast and although we were on a waiting list, I had to keep calling b/c they don’t do a good job of following up. It costs about $100 for buffet dinner, unlimited drinks/open-bar, and a great show of hula and Polynesian dancers.
- We stayed at the Fairmont Kea Lani oceanfront room – one of the best hotels I’ve stayed at! Absolutely loved it, loved the pool, the views, the beach (polo beach – small private beach for Fairmont, but large waves!) and the resto – Nick’s Fishmarket Maui – where we ate dinner twice 🙂 I don’t think you have to stay at the hotel to eat here so if you want a dinner out, I’d recommend it. You can try to come before sunset and sit with a sunset view and it’s really pretty. Again, a little pricey (it’s the Fairmont!) but we were lazy to leave the property. We pretty much spent every afternoon at the Fairmont pool/beach and during the days did three different tours:
- Surfing – we surfed with Maui Waveriders in Kihei and LOVED them. Great instructor and they have a photographer in the water for you! Would’ve been cool to try paddle boarding too!
- Sunrise Bike Ride with Haleakala Bike Company – http://www.bikemaui.com/ – we drove ourselves to their shop (past Paia) and then took a bus up with the tour company to the peak of the volcano. On the tour, you watch the sunrise (freezing cold) and then bike ride all the way down to the shop. You usually end up back at the shop by 10am. We chose the self-guided option so we were on our own and can stop wherever we like for breakfast/ photos/ etc. I was not a fan of this tour. The sunrise was pretty but b/c we already did the sunset in mauna kea on big island, I wasn’t blown away. There are others who say this is the best thing they’ve ever done though… Also the self-guided thing in retrospect was not such a good idea b/c it was easy to get lost (which we did!) and then we had to bike ride uphill to get back on track (you can imagine how happy I was about that!). Finally, you have to wake up at like 3 am to make it to the bike shop and catch their bus to the summit for the sunrise. It was just exhausting. So overall, I would not do this specific tour again but would recommend doing the guided bike ride tour, especially if you haven’t done a sunset/sunrise thing yet… or you can choose the option where you bike ride later in the day without the sunrise…
- Snorkelling – http://www.sailtrilogy.com/ We took a snorkelling tour to Molokini crater and the boat was also supposed to stop at “turtle town” an area where you can snorkel with the turtles! This is supposed to be an amazing tour and the snorkeling is supposed to be great…unfortunately, on the day we took the tour the weather was not so great and the snorkeling was really disappointing. There were definitely lots of fish and they were really close and all around us, but nothing too exceptional. Mind you, the first-time snorkelers on board really seemed to like it. We did take the later tour so I don’t know if we had gone in the early morning tour if that would have been better. Also, because of the weather they were also unable to go to ‘turtle town’ and even though we saw some turtles in the water, we didn’t get to snorkel/swim with them. Really upset about that! I’d still recommend snorkeling at Molokini crater and/or turtle town area b/c I think that maybe we had an ‘off day.’ Maybe booking separate tours (i.e. one just for turtle town and one for molokini crater etc.) would be better and/or booking the tour for earlier in the week would be a good idea so if the weather is not great you can re-book for a better day?
- Red Sand Beach – so apparently there’s only one and it’s in Hana and almost impossible to get to (well possible but really dangerous to hike to and it’s considered trespassing). We found out that the local kayaking tour company in Hana (the hotel transferred us to them so not sure of the name) can do private kayak trips and will take you there at a cost of $150/person! Rahim was dying to go to this beach and we were tempted to risk the hike but it had rained the night before so the warnings were really high. The kayak tour also said they could not take us until later that afternoon or the next day and we didn’t have the time, plus a little too pricey for us so we passed. If this is something high on your to-do list, book it as soon as you get there! Also the price might be negotiable, especially depending on the number of people so you might get a better deal….
- Paia – this is a little town on the road to Hana that has Brazilian influence. You can shop for some hot Brazilian bikinis here or go to the beach and see the pretty people 😀 There’s also a resto and B&b called Mama’s Fish House here that’s supposed to be great and according to foursquare (and Rahim) Paia is known for their fish tacos…(I think the resto is called paia fish market). If you get a chance, I’d even recommend spending a night here before leaving for your road to hana or on your way back. The town was cute. A couple we met on our snorkeling trip were honeymooning in maui and spent the trip based in Paia and loved it.
- Maui beaches – there are some great beaches around the Fairmont hotel area (Wailea) and even up past Lahaina (in Napili) and people we met on the snorkeling tour who were staying in Napili also said the snorkeling there was awesome. We were really happy with Fairmont and wanted to chill so we didn’t do anything else but stay at the Fairmont pool/beach, but just letting you know in case you want to explore b/c polo beach isn’t known as one of the ‘best’ beaches!
- Helicopter tour – this was a cost thing originally so we didn’t book it and then afterwards it was an availability thing (I asked the hotel concierge to try the night before we were leaving!) and so we did not get to do a helicopter tour on this trip. Don’t really feel like it’s a must-do but some of the pics of the waterfalls you can see from the helicopter look incredible. Lesson – book ahead or at least as soon as you arrive if you want to do this!